What Are Irrigation Shutdowns and Why Are They so Important?

A healthy landscape relies on functional, efficient irrigation. During winter, however, your green spaces lie dormant, getting rid of the need for regular watering. It’s not enough to merely turn off certain aspects of your irrigation system. However, you must perform a complete shutdown of all system components. Failing to properly shut down your irrigation system in time for winter can result in numerous headaches, repairs, and costly replacement jobs down the line. Let’s explore what an irrigation shutdown entails and why it’s so important to the ongoing maintenance of your property as a whole.

What Is an Irrigation Shutdown?

As its name implies, an irrigation shutdown is the process by which all irrigation system components are completely turned off for a given period of time (i.e., throughout winter). During this process, any remaining water inside your irrigation features must also be thoroughly drained. It’s critical to perform these shutdowns prior to winter, though optimal dates will vary depending on the region and the given year’s outlook. While property owners can handle certain aspects of an irrigation shutdown on their own, hiring professional irrigation services is always the best course of action.

Why Should You Shut Down Your Irrigation Systems?

If you’re not familiar with how irrigation systems operate or what freezing conditions can do to them, you might not understand why you’d want to shut down your irrigation system in the first place. Simply put, you never want water to freeze inside pumps or distribution lines -- when this happens, your irrigation components can undergo serious damage, rendering them faulty (if not entirely useless) by the time you need them again in the spring. As autumn transitions to winter, temperatures gradually decline until this freezing is more and more likely to occur. Shutting down your irrigation system and removing all water from its lines greatly reduces the risk of these negative outcomes, saving you time and money in the long run.

While you don’t want to shut down your irrigation too soon (since you still want to keep your landscape properly hydrated during the warmer months), you don’t want to wait too long, either -- the cold weather often arrives sooner than we think. As mentioned earlier, the arrival of freezing temperatures varies from region to region. Generally speaking, those in northern areas should consider shutting down their irrigation systems as early as October, while those further south can usually wait until November or December. The urgency with which you shut down and winterize your irrigation system also partially depends on the type of system you’re working with. Backflow-type systems can typically handle cold temperatures better than their counterparts, meaning they can usually go a bit longer before needing to be turned off for the season.

Professional irrigation and lawn care services will know the best course of action regarding the timing and method for turning off your particular system in preparation for winter.

What Does an Irrigation Shutdown Entail?

Every irrigation system is different, but the general shutdown/winterization procedure remains the same across the board. Technicians will begin by assessing the system to check for any current issues that should be addressed prior to the shutdown. From there, the process is as follows:

  • Your contractors will shut off the system’s water supply.

  • They will then turn on a single zone and open the control valve to allow any remaining water to escape.

  • In order to pump out this remaining water, contractors then attach the air compressor to the main line at about 60-70 PSI.

  • After the escaping water has dissolved into a mist, they can move on to the next zone and perform the same actions (contractors will take special care to not allow the compressed air to linger on valves for too long, as the high heat can damage them).

  • The air is turned off after every line has been purged of excess water.

  • Then, the controller is also turned off.

  • Controllers that feature electronic LCD displays should remain plugged in throughout the winter if they’ll be exposed to cold temperatures -- otherwise, the screen might get damaged.

  • Lastly, if applicable, the pump should be drained and its suction line and foot valve removed before being disconnected from the power supply.

The above is merely a basic outline of the steps involved in an irrigation shutdown procedure. Ideally, the irrigation experts you hire to temporarily turn off your system will be the same experts that switch it back on in the springtime -- this way, your technicians will have a more intimate knowledge of your specific setup and will be more accountable for their work.

Additional Landscape Winterization Services

An irrigation shutdown is one of the most important tasks to handle to prepare your facility’s exterior for winter weather, but it’s not the only one. Your green spaces require additional winterization efforts to keep them in decent condition all season long and allow for a smoother transition from winter to spring. Landscape debris removal is an important service for late fall, as heavy leaf accumulation can suffocate your lawn before winter even sets in. Grass should also be cut short, aerated, and fertilized prior to the season’s first freeze. Your lawn maintenance service should apply mulch around trees, shrubs, and plans to minimize winter damage. The months leading up to winter are also prime time for pruning plants to allow healthier growth in the spring. Facility managers and landscape professionals should also take measures to protect green spaces from snow and ice all winter long.

At The Budd Group, our complete facility management services cover the gamut when it comes to landscape and irrigation winterization. Allow our expert technicians to properly turn off your irrigation systems for the winter and turn them back on in the spring, so your landscape remains healthy and beautiful. To learn more about our services and values, give us a call today at 800-221-8158!

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